I’m sitting here at Tim Hortons — a place that I describe as my second office — and it’s a little later than usual — it’s after 6 a.m. The events of last night are still bouncing around in my blood, and my brain is a running slide show that includes the pop/soul singer songwriter Crissy Cochrane. I also see the poets — Bruce Meyer and Barry Brodie — furiously autographing their books, and there is a throng of students at what certainly has to be the largest literary reading in SW Ontario. These students are mingling about with big smiles on their faces. The night is over. They know they’ve done a great job of organizing it, and making this all happen.
But this is morning now, and it’s quiet: a cup of tea, a bagel and the newspaper spread out on the table before me. I’m by myself. There is the vague echo of an ambulance racing by, and other than that, there is only the sound of the coffee shop’s coffee machines… and the memories of the night before at the Caboto Hall.
Last night, Black Moss Press launched Bruce Meyer’s 1967: Centennial Year and Barry Brodie’s Tom Thomson: On the Threshold of Magic. The launch was done in conjunction with the University of Windsor’s Editing/Publishing Practicum. These are the two courses that I teach, and it’s the one that was selected by Maclean’s as one of the “cool” courses for 2017 in the magazine’s annual report card on universities. And throughout the night, this was a constant refrain, including the University of Windsor Provost Douglas Kneale calling me “a cool guy.”
Twenty four of my students were involved in this program, having edited these books from September to December, and then taking on the role of designing, laying out, marketing and producing teaching kits and press kits. Hundreds of hours were spent in this endeavor, and the Caboto Club event was the crowning glory of it all.
Toronto-born writer and former poet laureate of Barrie, Ontario Bruce Meyer remarked, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” He said book signings and launches are never this formal or elegant. This is coming from someone who has published 50 books, and someone who has had at least two Canadian bestsellers. Bruce maintained there is nothing like this anywhere in Ontario, or maybe Canada. I am not sure if it’s true, but for an annual gathering, as this has become, there is little to rival it. Besides, we have been doing this for a dozen years, and it grows every year. We also sold nearly $3000 worth of books.
For Barry Brodie, one of the prime movers behind the ever-popular Sho Gallery in Walkerville, this was his first book. And, of course, his first book launch. Maybe we spoiled him. People queued up for his book. Some remembered his play about Tom Tomson that received rave reviews, and now this was a chance for them to have a copy of it between the covers of a published book.
One fan bought 14 copies of 1967: Centennial Year, and Bruce painstakingly signed each and every one with a personal note. The authors were in their element: head down and scribbling their salutations in book after book after book. How glorious a feeling is that!
It was a night with lots of fanfare. Superbly well-orchestrated. All by these students. I felt blessed by the moment. In my remarks to the crowd, I maintained that it was a stress-free semester teaching these students the rudiments of publishing, and that it was because they were “responsible, mature, insightful, gracious and made a difference.”
For me, education ought to be experiential, and provide students with the opportunities to develop skills that they can take into the real world of business. Life skills. And last night, those students stepped up to the task, and showed what they had. I also told them how important it was for them to dream deeply, to hold steady with their dreams, always aiming higher and ignore the naysayers. “Believe in yourself,” I said.
For poetry, it was a win. It brought people to the Caboto who might never have attended a literary soiree in their life. For the photographers, it brought out some from the local media, including local photographer and good friend Ted Kloske whose photographs are displayed here.
As I get up to leave the coffee shop, someone from nearby Chrysler strolls in, and notices me. He approaches me with this: “I heard on the radio that you had a good night last night — you’re doing great things for Windsor.” I nodded, and thanked him, then made my exit. The sun was just coming up.